Potato Grower

April 2020

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The less than kind weather conditions across a good portion of potato-growing America in 2019 resulted in what could be called something less than a bumper crop. The USDA has estimated about a 6 percent drop in total U.S. potato production from the previous year's harvest, which would be the lowest output in almost a decade. If you're reading this magazine, none of this is really news to you. The U.S. potato industry worked hard last fall to quash public and media apprehension that the country would run out of fries and chips before the 2020 harvest. But the difficult harvest and moment of media hand-wringing of 2019 were sufficient to bring to the forefront the question, "How can we guarantee there won't be a massive potato shortage in the future?" Thankfully, that question is never far from the minds of growers and other industry allies, even in the best of times. A prime example is the research agreement between the J.R. Simplot Company and Yield10 Bioscience, a company that develop technologies to produce step-change improvements in crop yield, with a stated goal of enhancing global food security. With an ever-increasing demand for food and an ever-shrinking amount of land available for agriculture, Yield10's philosophy is to look at the plant as a factory and try to engineer a more efficient process within the plant. It views its work in a similar vein as that of software app developers; its "genetic apps" are meant to help crop plants more efficiently utilize their resources—primarily by optimizing plants' carbon fixation. "Ultimately, our goal is to build better plants and enhance food security and sustainability using select yield traits and CRISPR genome editing in major crops," says Yield10 CEO Oliver Peoples. "For the farmer, the trait is a seed performance feature brought about by improving the genetics of the crop." To improve crop genetics, Yield10 utilizes a proprietary gene discovery method called the Gene-Ranking Artificial Intelligence Network (GRAIN). The GRAIN platform helps the Yield10 team to perform modeling studies and mine big data sources, prioritizing gene targets for specific crop traits. "Currently, Yield10 is using the platform to identify compositional traits that could enhance crops' nutritional profiles, such as improving oil or protein content, and better fit changing consumer preferences," says Peoples. "There is also potential to create a model for potato to identify new traits and targets that could impact yield and stress tolerance." WWW.POTATOGROWER.COM 21

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